Until recently, the Pentax DSLR lineup consisted of the flagship K-5II/5IIs bodies along with the prosumer-featured K-30 masquerading as an entry-level Pentax owing to the absence of other models in the product line. All that changed in June 2013 with the introduction of the K-50 and K-500 bodies; the K-50 spec sheet reads almost identically to that of the K-30, while the K-500 specs out largely as a K-50 without weather sealing and a couple other features. Not a lot of product differentiation but at least newcomers to the Pentax label have a more concrete delineation of entry-level, midrange and flagship models.
Specifications for the K-50 mimic the K-30, and here are a few of the similarities: 16.3 megapixel resolution sensor; SAFOX IXi+ 11 point autofocus system; 3 inch LCD monitor; built in flash with a guide number of 12 meters at 100 ISO; lithium-ion or optional AA battery power sources; identical body dimensions and weight; maximum shutter speed of 1/6000 of a second and a continuous shooting rate of up to 6 frames per second; full 1080 HD video and in-body image stabilization. One slight difference: the K-50 features an ISO sensitivity range of 100 to 51200 while the K-30 tops out at 25600.
The K-50 can utilize SD/SDHC/SDXC memory media and is Eye-Fi SD card compatible, offering a capability to perform wireless transfer of camera images to a computer or smartphone not found in the K-30. Pentax includes a USB cable, battery charger kit and Li-Ion battery, camera strap, eyecup, AC power cord, hot shoe and body mount covers, printed user's manual and CD-ROM software with each camera. Basic body colors are black, white or red; you can special order a K-50 with any of 20 options for body color along with 6 options for grip color - 120 possible combinations. Our review unit was the red variant, so red it would make a Ferrari or fire truck jealous. Pentax lists a 4 to 6 week wait time for special orders, and at the time of review, the K-50 body prices are $700 on the Pentax website, with reputable internet vendors at $697. The camera is available in kit form from Pentax with an 18-55 mm lens for $780; internet prices for this combination are $777. A second kit, featuring 18-55 and 50-200 mm lenses is $880 from Pentax and $877 via the internet.
Build and Design
Both the K-50 and its predecessor have external dimensions of 5.1 x 3.8 x 2.8 inches and weigh 20.8 ounces without battery, lens or memory media; control placement is identical and while the K-50 has a few minor differences in external body contours the cameras are virtually indistinguishable at a quick glance. Construction consists of polycarbonate panels affixed to a stainless steel chassis and there are 81 seals throughout the camera body, which is assembled in the Philippines. The DAL 1:3.5-5.6 18-55 AL WR kit lens on our review unit was assembled in Vietnam. Here's a look at both ends of that focal length range.
Both camera and lens appear well constructed with fit and finish commensurate to their price point.
Ergonomics and Controls
Like the K-30, the external dimensions of the K-50 place it on the smaller end of the DSLR size spectrum and folks with large hands might find the camera bit small for their taste. The little finger of my right hand curls under the camera body and the first joint/second pad of my right forefinger falls upon the shutter button, requiring a minor repositioning to trigger the shutter with the tip of the finger. I found ample clearance between the handgrip and the lens barrel for the middle fingers of the right hand. All in all there wasn't much to distinguish the K-50 from the K-30 from an ergonomic standpoint -- the two cameras felt and handled the same. The similarities were so striking that what I originally wrote for the K-30 is equally applicable to the K-50:
"The mode dial sits atop the camera body adjacent to the handgrip, which offers easy access for changes via the right thumb of the shooting hand while retaining the shooting grip on the camera. The front and rear e-dials are easily accessed by the forefinger and thumb, respectively, and may be used to change shutter and aperture settings along with exposure compensation, menus and menu items along with other camera settings depending on the individual shooting mode the camera is in at any particular time. Other external controls offer quick access to ISO, white balance, flash, single or continuous shooting, the self-timer and exposure bracketing. All these controls are positioned in such a way that inadvertent activations of them would be rare during shooting".
Menus and Modes
As you would expect from a DSLR, there is a fairly comprehensive set of menus to permit fine tuning camera performance to suit the individual user's needs. The K-50 has five main menus: record mode, movie, playback, set up and custom setting. I found the menus to be fairly simple and intuitive to use without reference to the camera user's manual. The record mode menu consists of 4 pages; movie, 1 page; playback,1 page; set up, 4 pages and custom setting 4 pages - an identical menu configuration to the K-30 with the exception of the additional 4th page in the setup menu.
Exposure modes are typical for a DSLR targeting a wide range of potential users: automatic and scene shooting modes that require little more from the operator than to point, focus and shoot the camera along with more traditional manual and semiautomatic exposure options that provide a much wider range of image capture options.
The K-50 3 inch color LCD monitor has a 921,000 dot composition and is adjustable for 15 levels of brightness; there are also 15 levels of adjustment along the blue-amber and green- magenta color axes as well. Area of coverage during live view operation is approximately 100%. I found the monitor fairly usable in bright outdoor conditions for image capture or review, but even with the range of adjustment there were times where sun angles or other lighting conditions made outdoor use difficult.
The pentaprism viewfinder offers approximately 100% coverage and has a diopter adjustment to accommodate varying degrees of eyesight acuity. In practice, I found the viewfinder to be large, relatively bright and pleasant to use. There are four interchangeable viewing screens available.
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